Daily Delight

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Please read Genesis 32:24-26 as preparation for today’s devotional😄

My husband is a seventh degree black belt in karate. He also enjoys ju-jitsu and so do my boys. In ju-jitsu, they grapple. It’s similar to wrestling. They have to know their limits because they need to tap out or pat the ground as a sign of surrender before they get hurt. Once, my oldest son was in a tournament where his opponent put him in an arm bar that was indefensible. But he didn’t want to tap out because all of his friends and family had driven an hour to watch him. He didn’t want to disappoint us.

He didn’t care that he could get hurt. He wanted the win.

The opponent pushed his arm too far and hurt my son. He tapped out too late. He lost the match. And even though he fought through the pain, he lost the next match too, and was eliminated. (I hadn’t wanted him to continue, so I was relieved.)

He was very disappointed. And he was in a lot of pain. But I think he learned a little something about letting go that made him a better, smarter fighter.

Jacob had been wrestling in some way or another since the womb. “The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, ‘Why is this happening to me?”…The Lord said to her, ‘Two nations are in your womb,…” (Genesis 25:22-23). He came out of the womb holding on to his brother’s foot. And he continued to wrestle, using tricks and deceit to get what he wanted in life. Most of the time he succeeded.

When he was a grown man, blessed beyond his dreams, God told him to return to his homeland. That meant he had to face his brother. The brother who’s birthright he had stolen. The brother he’d run away from a long time ago. Instead of turning to tricks and lies, for the first time, we see Jacob humble himself and pray. (Gen. 32:9-12) God had blessed his life over and over by this time, and he had finally come to believe the promises.

Yet, his heart was still full of fear. And his prayer begged God to save him.

He sent everyone ahead with gifts and praises, hoping to soften Esau up before he met with him. He was all alone in the dark when he started wrestling with this mysterious “man.”

“When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man” (Gen. 32:25).

I’ve always thought this was so weird. I mean, obviously God could have beaten him at any time. Why does it say he couldn’t “overpower” him?

And then I got it. God essentially had him in an indefensible arm bar. Jacob refused to tap out. God was waiting on Jacob’s heart to change. He waited all night. Really, “he could not overpower him” means “this dude was too freaking stubborn to tap out.” Jacob only understood fighting and manipulating. God knew that he needed all night of struggling to come to the realization that he could not overpower or manipulate God. Jacob needed a painful hip to remind him for the rest of his life that he didn’t have to struggle anymore. He had surrendered his heart to God.

Sometimes God can only reach us when we are at our lowest points. It took that pain for Jacob to give up the fight and allow God to change his heart forever.

Jacob knew this wasn’t just a man. When he injured his hip with a touch, Jacob knew this “man” could have beaten him at any time during the night. He also knew that no one can see the face of God and live, and this man wanted to leave before daybreak. Most scholars believe this was a pre-incarnate Christ.

Jesus wrestled with Jacob all night to save him, just like he wrestled with the pain of my sin on the cross to save me.

Jacob didn’t care that he could die, he wasn’t letting go without a blessing.

Jesus not only blessed him, he changed his name. Jacob means supplanter, or one who takes the place of another by force, scheming, or strategy. Jacob had been scheming and making deals and lying to get what he wanted his whole life. Jesus changed his heart through that wrestling match, so he also changed his name to Israel which means “God fights” or “God strives.” He wanted Jacob to remember that God had defeated his scheming nature for good.

Even though in verse 28 Jesus says, “you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.” Did Jacob actually win the wrestling match? Uh, no. It was like a father arm wrestling his child. He puts up a good show of struggling, but he can win at any time. Jacob only learned through struggling. This “loss” became his greatest victory—that is how he had “overcome.”

It is our victory too.

When we give up our struggle of pride, or fear, or skepticism, or whatever is holding us back, that’s where we meet Jesus. Sometimes God will have to dislocate whatever is causing us to hang on to our sin in order for us to surrender the fight, to tap out, to let God take control of our hearts. That can be so painful.

But it’s so worth it in the end.

Photo: @dreacoci

Stephanie Cardel

Stephanie Cardel is a wife of thirty years, mother of three grown children, leader of Bible studies, and writer of a blog about Jesus in the Old Testament. She also writes YA and MG fiction and volunteers in her local public schools teaching abstinence.

If you need her, you can dig your way through the overflowing piles of books to her room, where she’ll be curled up with a cup of mocha coffee doing one of three things: studying her Bible, reading fiction, or writing. You can also visit her websites:

www.withopenedeyes.com, www.checkoutthesebooks.com, or follow her on twitter @StephanieCardel or @fixingmyeyes.


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